Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gearing up for History: An Intro to London 2012

   I love the Olympics. I stayed up until midnight to see the end of the opening ceremonies. I saw every single country march by in the Parade of Nations. I listened to every single fact Mr. Bob Costas was banging out about little Pacific islands I have never even heard of. The Olympics are the ultimate celebration of one of my absolute favorite things: sports. Seventeen days of non-stop sports coverage. It is a beautiful thing.
   I look forward to these things like crazy, and so you can imagine my anticipation when the opening ceremonies of these London games began. I made my family rush through my father’s barbecue dinner so we could watch them on time, and that never happens. The ultimate celebration of human achievement was underway, and I was going to be all over it like American Ariel Hsing is all over table tennis (She kicks ass, by the way. More to follow!).
   We sat down, the festivities began, and then . . . phhhhhbbttttt. The opening ceremony started out promising, the whole smoke-stack thing was neat, and when they forged the ring and it met the other four and caught fire—awesome. There were some audible wows from the living room over here. Danny Boyle, the director of the ceremonies, was off to a good start. The James Bond thing with Her Majesty the Queen was memorable, and the dream sequence highlighting British literature was nice, but then it was like Mr. Boyle suddenly realized he wasgoing to be paid as much as he thought, and decided Eh, screw it! and sand-bagged the rest of the show. I did not need any rap in my opening ceremony, and while the tribute to the Beatles and Queen and David Bowie and the rest of the famous British rockers was fine, where in the wide wide world of sports was Elton John?! The guy was freaking knighted, for the love of God!
   Finally, as if to throw a giant middle finger to the sporting world, Boyle failed to bring up a legendary athlete to light the torch. Instead, we had a few dumb kids who probably paid their way in set fire to one of the most sacred symbols in the sports universe. What the hell. The most recognizable athlete in the entire process was David Beckham, and he was never an Olympian. Forgive this burst of emotion, but why why why why why?! I stayed up until midnight for this. Over five hours of devotion. Explain. Someone explain. I could not. I still cannot. Who thought this was a good idea. These are not even questions anymore; these are bland statements. Whatever. Poop. I am over it.
   Now, I am cycling four Olympic channels watching everything from fencing to soccer to women’s table tennis (As an aside, this proves that NBC has the best sportscasters on television. The broadcaster for Hsing’s table tennis match is currently discussing how footwork and racquet placement was a huge emphasis heading into the London Games. Wow. This is someone who has delved into their announcing duties. Did you know that Hsing aspires to go to Stanford, and that her parents do not let her play table tennis unless she keeps up a perfect 4.0 GPA? The NBC guy knows. He told me himself.), and I am loving every second of it. Right now I am wondering if the yelling that occurs in fencing is louder and more obnoxious than the yelling that occurs in tennis. It really could go either way.
   The Olympics, no matter how you slice it, offers non-stop drama, non-stop excitement, and non-stop entertainment. Already, the men’s archery gold medal match has come down to the final arrow, and the women’s fencing semi-finals have seen a six-point comeback by an Italian over the gal from South Korea. This is why I watch (in addition to seeing Hsing sweep her opponent, four games to none, g-status). No matter what disappointments the opening ceremonies bring, the Games themselves never fail to amaze and astound.
   We have sixteen whole days to go. Bring it on.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bane is a Badass--The Dark Knight Rises Review

   Right away, I want to tell you something about The Dark Knight Rises: Do not worry. It does not disappoint. It does not drop the ball. It is spectacular.
   There, now you can breathe easy, because one of the most anticipated movies of the past five years is actually a treat to watch. While it may not be absolutely perfect, it succeeds where it absolutely needs to succeed, and the result is a satisfying, thrilling, and intense conclusion to one of the greatest superhero franchises ever put onscreen.
   If you forgot where we are now in the trilogy, it is important to remember going in that Batman is still believed to have murdered Harvey Dent by the people and police of Gotham City. Unable to show himself, Batman/Bruce Wayne has shut himself inside his manor for eight years. Now, with the terrorist mastermind Bane threatening to establish a terrible new reign over the city, the Caped Crusader has to determine once and for all what it means to wear the cowl. Is it a symbol of justice, a symbol of redemption, or a symbol of vengeance?
   (Good Lord, that sounded like the back of a movie box! That was awesome!)
   All the hype aside, I had three big worries going into Rises (Aside from the very real possibility of having to see it alone; most of the key players were out of town, and my own father initially rejected me before eventually coming around. For a good 24 hours I was in panic mode.). One, I was worried that with the eight-year timeline gap between this movie and its predecessor, the movie would take too long in catching up the viewer and start out sluggishly. Two, I was worried that Anne Hathaway would flop as Catwoman. Finally, I was worried that the conclusion would leave me wanting more (or even worse, wanting a re-do). I did not want to be wishing for more Batman, especially when this was supposed to be the pinnacle of the Dark Knight story.
   Thankfully, Rises put just about all of my worries to rest. We will go in order here. The first twenty minutes or so, aside from an absolute killer introduction to Bane, are a little slow. After all, there is no Batman, and the movie needs to catch everyone up on what has been happening in Gotham for the past eight years. It is somewhat annoying, especially given the aforementioned Bane scene and the looming threat that the viewer knows he will pose. You want to hit the ground running, but Rises does not quite let you loose right away; it needs to lay the groundwork first.
   Second of all, Anne Hathaway is positively brilliant as Catwoman. She captures every single side of Selina Kyle’s personality, and somehow manages to find the perfect balance between the comic book character and Christopher Nolan’s adaptation. Batman fans will love her, movie fans will love her, and I think everyone will breathe a collective sigh of relief that they finally did Catwoman proper (some will say Halle Berry was hotter, but still). Her performance might be the best of the film if not for Tom Hardy’s Bane, but we will cover what a BAMF he is later.
   You know what? Screw it. Bane was so freaking awesome in this movie we are going to talk about him right now. I will say first that comparisons to Heath Ledger’s Joker are both unfair and inevitable. The reason they are unfair is because the Joker and Bane are completely different villains. The Joker is more of a behind-the-scenes and screw-with-your-head villain while Bane is more of a screw-with-your-head-right-in-front-of-you-because-I’m-so-badass villain. Ledger had more room to act as the Joker, whereas Hardy sits behind a totally sick muzzle/mask and intimidates the living crap out of you. Both were immensely successful in portraying their characters, end of story.
   Now we can just revel in Bane. In a word, he was commanding. Every single scene in which Bane was present, you knew it. The Vader-esque breathing, the ruthless stare, the cold eyes, he was nothing short of a presence. At least three times during the course of the movie I was attempted to lean over to my father during a Bane moment and mutter, “This is the most badass thing I have seen in a long time.” Goodness, he was a BAMF. He continually felt like a legitimate threat to both Batman and Gotham, and as you will see, he proved to be just that. He was complex, he was dominating, he was powerful, he was everything a supervillian was supposed to be, and you cannot ask for much more than that.
   Finally, we can talk about the overall conclusiveness of the trilogy. In short, Rises finishes the job and finishes the job well. Batman is forced to define his legacy, and with it he defines the series. I will not give anything away (and anyone who does should be severely punished, you guys have no idea, huge pet peeve, but I digress), but just know that the series ends in a satisfying way. You walk out of the theater not feeling shorted or slighted in anyway. This is something that was given a lot of thought by Christopher Nolan, and it shows. It is a job well done.
   To be fair, we have to cover the film’s shortcomings. I think that overall, Rises is a victim of its length (almost three hours!). A few things are shorthanded, a few characters (Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s rookie cop in particular) are underdeveloped, and quick explanations are offered through sometimes clunky lines of dialogue. As I said before, the beginning is a touch too slow, but things pick up quickly enough that you will not lose interest. So while the movie could have used a small degree of polishing, these flaws are ultimately akin to the grammar mistakes on an otherwise stellar essay; the content is magnificent, and that is all that really matters at the end of the day.
   The Dark Knight Rises ends Christopher Nolan’s trilogy in brilliant fashion. If you thought Batman Begins was better than The Dark Knight, as I did, then the final installment is likely to be your favorite. The conclusion boasts an unforgettable villain, a strong supporting cast, Christian Bale’s best performance of the franchise, and an articulate story that concludes the tale of the Batman in an absolutely epic way. I give it an 8.5 out of 10, and the nomination for one of the top 10 best superhero movies ever. You will not be disappointed, you will not be let down. Go see Rises right now.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dazz 2.0--Bidding Goodbye to Notre Dame Prep

   This article is a long time coming, partially because I have been waiting a year to write it and more partially because it is a whole month late. I thought for a second about telling everyone that this was a really emotional process, and I slaved over how exactly I was going to word my goodbye to Notre Dame, but the truth is I was a little caught up in water polo and work and people and Grand Theft Auto IV, so I was a little distracted. Intentionally distracted, but whatever. This is my belated goodbye to high school, my farewell to the Catholic institution at 98th and Bell.
    I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that I was not 100% onboard with Notre Dame my freshman year. It was one-half my parents, one-fourth me not wanting to argue with my parents, and one-fourth me thinking it would not be so bad. So there you go, I was not super stoked to be a saint. The scene is set.
   Flash forward three years. It is the summer before senior year, and I am sitting in the back of Mrs. Martinez’s Honors Econ summer school slugfest wondering how you start a blog. I wondered what I would call it. I wondered which website to ground it in. Most importantly, I wondered who on God’s green earth would read the darn thing. My mom, probably. Maybe. I went home and decided, what the heck, and googled “how to start a blog”. Blogger. Sign in. Create blog. According to Dazz. No glowing lights or gospel music or triumphant exclamations. That was it. Ta-da . . .
   I wrote a post. This thing was supposed to be modeled after my newspaper column, so I wrote an article. It was called Summer of Nerd 2011: The Lamest Movie Preview Ever, and if I say so myself, it was pretty gosh darn good. It received 18 views . . . to date. We were off to a great start (and my archives section was really seeing some traffic down the road, thanks guys). So when I say A2D came from humble beginnings, I mean it. Seeing my mother as my only follower was pretty humbling.
   I threw the post onto Facebook and dropped the name around summer school the next day. Aside from my aforementioned mother, I know for sure that two people read Summer of Nerd, Caroline Atsaves and Damon Motamedi. Oh, and my buddy Nolan Bidese too (he did not read it until the school year started, but ever since he was “snubbed” from the Awards, he has had a few choice things to say about my material—so he takes the nod simply because I do not want to deal with him). If you stuck with the According to Dazz Awards, you know that Caroline and Damon were decided as the blog’s two biggest fans. After all, they really were here since genesis (is a Bible reference too much? Nah).
   You might think it strange to call them out in a farewell post to Notre Dame, but Caroline and Damon epitomize this blog’s success. This is all about you guys.
   After Summer of Nerd, I kept chugging away and cranking out posts. Most of you know the rest: Coach Scot Bemis began his battle with cancer, the football team scored their upset over Desert Mountain, I sent a reaction-post to the Dog Pound, and soon A2D was reaching more people than I could have ever thought possible. Everything came back to you guys. The readers. You guys are the reason Dazz is where it is today, you guys are the reason Dazz is who he is today, and you guys are the ones who deserve the praise at the end of the day.
   Because of you, Dazz (yep, pulling a Ricky Henderson) did a ton of things his senior year that he would not have done otherwise. Dazz commentated Powderpuff (seniors won, still believe it), Dazz hosted Mr. NDP (complete with stellar audio), Dazz cheered with the Goon Squad and snuck into the locker room for interviews after boys’ basketball took the win (saw the Knee Brace up close, still cannot believe it), and yes, Dazz watched Human Centipede and hated every godforsaken minute of it (Jake Anderson, eat your heart out). None of it is possible without all of you. The readers. Wow.
   I remember first arriving at Notre Dame Prep four years ago and not having that 100% onboard mindset that I mentioned before. It took three years, but I finally arrived there. This blog is the reason for that arrival. You are the reason for that arrival. I owe all of my amazing experiences and outstanding moments to you guys. If it were not for everybody’s support, I would not have had the confidence or courage to do anything. You took a guy who missed homecoming freshman year and turned him into someone who went out of his way not to miss anything. It was pretty special.
    Notre Dame really was a community this year, and I can say whole-heartedly that it affected me for the better. Three years of ho-hum turned into one incredible year that made up for all of it. I hope everyone looks back on this year, whether it leads to many more like it or not, and remembers this student body as one that had a total blast together. Never thought you would hear that about good ol’ NDP, did you? Had a blast . . . sounds nice.
   According to Dazz is going to keep on keeping on, as they say. There will be college posts (just think: college party dev diaries). Dazz will keep on writing; that is quite certain. The first chapter is coming to a close, and right now, it is time to not only look at what the next phase of Dazz has in store, but also look back and remember what was so special about the first phase. You guys have been incredible. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Each and every one of you, who ever clicked any of my links, cannot receive enough gratitude. You guys made senior year for me. You made high school for me. Notre Dame, good luck. You have come a long way in not just my eyes, but most everyone else’s too.
   The next chapter begins right now. Dazz 2.0—it just sounds cool, no? Or even better, A2D2. Oh man. Yes. This is going to be great. Ok, sorry. That is for another time.
   Hey, it looks like not much has changed after all. But either way, do not forget: Dazz 2.0 came from all of you.
   Thanks again everyone.